The ship smashes to pieces, its decks snapping upwards, its masts cleaving in two, the mage-wind sails burning. The floating boulder continues on its course and ploughs through the hull, ripping open compartments, sailors falling out, tumbling into the Water Fury where all is lost.
"Twelve abeam!" echoed the watch-captain of the Tourniquet
and beside him the pilot spun the wheel, sweat and raindrops dripping from his burly arms. The ship lurched to the left and the floating boulder skimmed by, scratching the masts as it passed.
Another boulder strikes the underside, impacting directly on the Carmot Engines, green fire erupting. The ship loses propulsion in an instant and begins a spiral, plunging through the Water Fury. All is lost.
"Nine abaft!" echoed the watch-captain, his voice breaking a little this time. He even helped the pilot wrench the sphere-wheel, pulling it back with all his might. The Tourniquet
pulled up sharply and there was a rush of air as the second boulder shot by.
The rock field grows denser, the spaces between impossible to navigate. The sailors are frozen, their mouths agape, as rock after rock slams into the hull and we break apart, ship sections falling like splintered rain.
"CUT TAILSHAFT, STARBOARD CAREEN, FULL ROLL - BRAAAACE!"
"Cut tailshaft, starboard careen, full... SHIIIIIIT!" the watch captain stopped halfway through echoing the order and grabbed hold of the nearest rope, as did the rest of the deck crew. There was a chorus of cries as the Tourniquet
spun, rolling to starboard as more floating boulders came flying out of the mist. The ship listed over, corkscrewing as the rocks flew by, some of them impacting the mast, some piercing the cabins, but the larger ones missing altogether. The sailors dangled from their ropes, flung around by the force of gravity.
Only one man didn't need to hold on, for he had strapped his feet to the deck the moment they entered the boulder field.
Kargon continued glaring over the bow as the Tourniquet
righted, his feet spread wide to support his massive, barrel-like frame. Rivulets of rainwater coursed over his body like the rivers and pools of a continent, tracing silver on contours of muscle and armoured leather.
At times the crew would see the First Mate normally, but then a lightning strike from above would distort the image and they would see his other form, hovering a few hundred feet in the mist ahead. His Cast Soul was out there, the ragged shade floating amongst the mist a few seconds into the future. The two parts of Kargon were in constant discourse now - a dozen futures of fiery demise averted, a hundred deaths sent back in time like daggers.
But even as Kargon witnessed his potential doom, over and over, he kept his orders sharp.
"BACK AND FILL!"
roared his voice - a voice with the thunder of a harsh life, grown deeper and more cavernous with every bruise and scar. "BROACH TO PORT!"
"Back and fill!" echoed the watch-captain, still a little pale from their last manouver, "Broach to port!"
turned sharply, its Carmot engines screaming in protest as they worked in opposition to the mage-wind sails, the whole ship almost twisting out of shape. But it was just in time, for a boulder the size of a small town loomed from the mist a second later. The pirate ship skidded through the air, its stern scraping across the boulder before a second thrust sent it on its way. And on the bow, Kargon screwed up his map in one hand and tossed it into the storm.
The Witch Map had been a hard-won thing, a prize paid for in a currency of tavern brawls, midnight thefts and cut-throat bargaining. He had had to beat three men to an inch of their lives, and his crew had endured more than their usual share of skirmishes with rival traders and officers of the crown. In the end they had tracked it down to the townhouse of a governor in the Mid-Realms, and the Tourniquet
still bore the damage from the viscious aerial raid they had conducted to plunder the governor's vault. Of course, the militia had given chase, but once the Tourniquet
had plunged into the rock-field of Torsa Prime, the governor had written them off as dead men. For no one alive had ever got through the floating boulders of Torsa Prime.
But such conventions didn't hold water when it came to Kargon, a man both living and dead. And now he had cleared the rock-field with the Witch Map in his hand. The map, drawn by the disease-ridden mystics of the Ceradene Cove, was the key to the location of the Nocta Syr Prison.
For when a prison shifts location at the dawn and dusk of every day, only the most twisted and powerful of oracles can forsee its arrival.
The map gave them the location of the next four shifts, and that was all the Tourniquet
In his other hand Kargon held a watch, and as the last of the large boulders skimmed overhead, he kept his eyes upon it. He could feel his Cast Soul ranging, the shade moving with a mind of its own in the moments ahead. In flashes he saw it: the shape of the prison towers unfolding from the mist, like an iceberg rising from blood-dark waters. And then the Cast Soul faded. It would always come and go, and it was only by the greatest application of will that he could keep it in one place. Tonight had almost exhausted Kargon, and he feared it would be a long time before the Cast Soul allowed such cooperation again.
As a cold shiver ran through him - the feeling of the Cast Soul re-entering his body - Kargon yelled. "TOSS-BUOY, CAPSTAN READYYYYY!"
A group of pirates near the stern shot into action, readying the harpoon-like device at the back of the ship. They angled it, looking back to Kargon for orders.
And Kargon eyes were fixed dead ahead, at the swirling mists, counting the seconds as they ticked on his watch... "BY THE KEEL..."
The mists separated...
Things started to appear: metal points, like the tips of a crown...
Everyone else on the deck grabbed hold of ropes and prayed for their lives.
The harpoon was fired and a ball of blue light shot from the stern of the Tourniquet, trailing enchanted rope. The Toss Buoy screamed between the towers of the materialising prison of Nocta Syr and came to a halt over one of its massive courtyards.
The magic buoy was locked perfectly in space, and in the next instant the rope pulled taut.
Anchored upon the buoy, the Tourniquet cut its engines and swung downwards, plunging to a chorus of half-terrified and half-exhilirated shouts from the crew. The ship fell like a pendulum between the half-summoned towers, swinging through courtyards and knocking gargoyles from ledges.
Kargon felt his stomach twist, but still he kept his sneer - the one thing he was careful not to lose on a ship like this. "PROW-CANNON FIRE!"
With a sound like thunder in the storm, the prow cannons opened up and sent a volley of cannonballs into one of the towers on the east wing. The magical rock was ripped apart, the chambers opening up like a wound. The Tourniquet came to the limit of its swing, a few dozen feet from the tower, and its mage-sails swung through the breach, entering and exiting the hole in a perfect arch.
And then it carried on swinging, all the way down till its masts scraped the floor of the courtyard. There were screams and insane whoops from the crew as parts of the ship snapped loose and cargo tumbled across the decks. But then the Tourniquet lifted again, swinging upwards on the enchanted rope and pointing towards the sky once more.
The pirate ship rocketed upwards, clearing the courtyard and twisting past the towers. There was a cheer, human shouts competing with the storm and the distant roars of the Prison's dark master, who even now was aware that something precious had been stolen from him.
The Carmot engines went into overtime as they cleared the peak of Nocta Syr and cut the Toss-Buoy lose, leaving it to collide with the prison as it swept onwards.
Kargon untied his feet and stalked back across the deck as the ship levelled out. And through the lashing rain he glared up at the central mast - the one that had swung through the hole in the prison tower. He watched something tumble down it, half-falling and half-leaping down the rigging.
And when it finally hit the deck, he picked it up with one hand and punched it with the other.
Captain Ku-Jon Bokor was thrown back against the mast, dazed by the punch, and Kargon held him there, one hand around his throat. The rest of the pirate crew gathered around, glaring just like Kargon... angrily... expectantly.
Kargon barked as he pinned the man in place, "About this treasure ye promised us?"